Our clinical column: Be bowel cancer aware | News and events

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Our clinical column: Be bowel cancer aware

This month (April) is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity to focus on prevention and early treatment of the disease.

Bowel cancer is cancer found anywhere in the large bowel, which includes the colon and rectum. It's one of the most common types of cancer in the UK.

The large bowel is part of your digestive system. It helps absorb water from your food and removes food waste from your body.

Bowel cancer screening can save lives. Screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage, when treatment has the best chance of working. The test can also find polyps (non-cancerous growths), which might develop into cancer. Polyps can usually be removed, to lower the risk of bowel cancer. Each of the bowel cancer screening programmes in the UK use home tests called the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). FIT looks for hidden blood in poo. If you're registered with a GP and within the eligible screening age range, a test will be automatically posted to you, so you can complete it in the privacy of your own home. In England, the NHS is gradually reducing the age range for bowel screening, phased in from 2021 over four years to include people aged 50-59.

Symptoms of bowel cancer may include:

  •        changes in your poo, such as having softer poo, diarrhoea or constipation that is not usual for you
  •        needing to poo more or less often than usual for you
  •        blood in your poo, which may look red or black
  •        bleeding from your bottom
  •        often feeling like you need to poo, even if you've just been to the toilet
  •        tummy pain
  •        bloating
  •        losing weight without trying
  •        feeling very tired for no reason

See a GP if you have any of these symptoms for three weeks or more.

Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  •        your poo is black or dark red
  •        you have bloody diarrhoea
  •        You can call 111 or get help from 111 online

Go to A&E or call 999 if:

  •       you're bleeding non-stop from your bottom
  •       there's a lot of blood, for example, the toilet water turns red or you see large blood clots

Some of the symptoms of bowel cancer are very common and can be caused by other conditions.

Having the symptoms does not definitely mean you have bowel cancer, but it's important to get checked by a GP.

If your symptoms are caused by cancer, finding it early may mean it's easier to treat.

For more information about bowel cancer, please visit www.nhs.uk.

Best wishes

Joanne Kellaway

Colorectal clinical nurse specialist

Deepa Cruz

Colorectal clinical nurse specialist

Sarojini Jayaprakash

Colorectal clinical nurse specialist

Mr Vernon Sivarajah

Consultant colorectal and general surgeon

Useful resources

NHS - bowel cancer symptoms - how to spot the warning signs >

NHS - how to use the bowel cancer screening FIT kit >

NHS - bowel cancer screening - Alan Titchmarsh and Tommy Walsh >

Inpatient comment:

Everyone offered words of such reassurance and kindness. I felt so cared for and the communication with me at all times was fantastic.

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